With no guarantee Notre Dame will receive the priority treatment it enjoyed under the current BCS system, the university is in talks with the ACC to preserve a prominent bowl relationship.
Multiple reports have surfaced that the Fighting Irish are in talks with the ACC about a possible tie-in with the Orange Bowl, giving Notre Dame a platform somewhat similar to the one it currently enjoys. Under the current BCS system, which expires after the 2013 season, Notre Dame was guaranteed a BCS bowl game if it finished in the top eight in the BCS standings.
And while that guarantee will be gone with the transition to a four-team playoff, the Chicago Tribune is reporting Notre Dame is trying to keep its name in the game by striking an Orange Bowl tie-in agreement that's similar to the same agreement the SEC and Big 12 enjoy with the newly created Champions Bowl, and the Pac-12 and Big Ten enjoy with the Rose Bowl.
The ACC restructured its contract with the Orange Bowl last week for the conference to continue sending its champion to the bowl game until 2026. That applies accept when the Orange Bowl is picked as one of the semifinal sites in the playoff; or the ACC champion qualifies for the playoff at a different site. If that's the case - the very rare case - the Orange Bowl will take the conference's runner-up.
"Since the development of the new plan for postseason football, the ACC and Notre Dame have had discussions relating to the Orange Bowl," Notre Dame senior associate athletic director John Heisler said. "While presidents have been consulted, the discussions have been between ACC conference staff and Jack [Swarbrick, Notre Dame AD]."
As an independent program in football, Notre Dame could be shut out of the current playoff picture with more weight being given to teams in conferences and to winning those conferences. This has led to speculation that Notre Dame, which participates in the Big East in Olympic sports, would need to join a conference for the sake of preserving its football reputation.
The school has consistently been linked to the Big Ten for geographical reasons and there have been rumors of Texas courting Swarbrick to the Big 12. There have even been talks about Notre Dame joining the ACC. Even if a move to a conference isn't made, a partnership with the ACC would help Notre Dame remain a major player in the playoff scenario.
As noted by Brian Hamilton of The Chicago Tribune, the idea of affiliating with the Orange Bowl seems to run counter to Swarbrick's previous endorsement of the new bowl system. In late June, the Notre Dame athletic director said he liked the flexibility afforded by the new system with no tie-ins.
"That's a great opportunity for me to get to them," Swarbrick said on June 27. "No one has locked them up to the exclusion of anybody else being in them and then because all that activity happens at that level. I think there's going to be more flexibility among the next tier of bowls."
As things stood then, the Fighting Irish with their large traveling presence and national following could bowl shop for the best offer. Now it appears that Notre Dame, with no conference affiliation, is scrambling for a best-case scenario.
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